FLASHBACK: The Shuttered Wit of the Director’s Mind

We like to quote individuals when they say great things. Speech encourages ideals, movements, discussion and thought. When the speech carries something of depth that can reach the heart and minds of many, that is a gift… That is something universal that has the 

As such, we quote scientists, philosophers, authors, actors, playwrights, religious figures, civil rights icons, activists, humanitarians and even fictional characters. We make sure their truth, their ideals live on beyond the person themselves. And we choose people who seem to have a connection through their role in society to the human condition. I would say the only people we quote that we should be more wary of how we perceive their words are politicians… for very obvious reasons.

So why is it that we don’t see enough filmmakers being quoted? Not only do the finest them find a connection to the subconscious and conscious plane of human existence, they mean to portray those planes in their own eyes. Their vision says more than many words could.

David and I have a wall of quotes on our respective facebooks which we dedicate to the quotes of people we encounter – friends, family, acquaintances, enemies, co-workers, students, teachers, pastors, Imams, etc. – and we post what we hear out for others to reflect on… since the ordinary man is just as capable of saying brilliant or funny things as the scientist or the civil rights activist… for, in a sense, we all are ordinary men…

I’ve decided to look in and re-read some of my favorite quotes from some of my favorite directors and put them on here. I chose quotes that largely apply outside of cinema, though many of the quotes do seem to reflect what the filmmakers say in their own movies, and certainly a good portion of them hint at or imply filmmaking techniques but apply to life as it is too…

I would some of you readers could be just as moved by these words as the words of a President.

“What chess teaches you is that you must sit there calmly and think about whether it’s really a good idea and whether there are other, better ideas.”

“The great nations have always acted like gangsters, and the small nations like prostitutes.”

“A satirist is someone who has a very skeptical view of human nature, but who still has the optimism to make some sort of a joke out of it. However brutal that joke might be.”

“I don’t like doing interviews. There is always the problem of being misquoted or, what’s even worse, of being quoted exactly.”

“The very meaninglessness of life forces man to create his own meaning.”

“It’s a mistake to confuse pity with love.”

“It’s crazy how you can get yourself in a mess sometimes and not even be able to think about it with any sense and yet not be able to think about anything else.”

“If you can talk brilliantly about a problem, it can create the consoling illusion that it has been mastered.”

“You’re an idealist, and I pity you as I would the village idiot.”

“When a man cannot choose, he ceases to be a man.”

“The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent; but if we can come to terms with this indifference and accept the challenges of life within the boundaries of death — however mutable man may be able to make them — our existence as a species can have genuine meaning and fulfillment. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.”

-Stanley Kubrick (2001: A Space Odyssey)

“I remain just one thing, and one thing only — and that is a clown. It places me on a far higher plane than any politician.”

“I am an individual and a believer in liberty. That is all the politics I have.”

“I believe that faith is a precursor of all our ideas. Without faith, there never could have evolved hypothesis, theory, science or mathematics. I believe that faith is an extension of the mind. It is the key that negates the impossible. To deny faith is to refute oneself and the spirit that generates all our creative forces. My faith is in the unknown, in all that we do not understand by reason; I believe that what is beyond our comprehension is a simple fact in other dimensions, and that in the realm of the unknown there is an infinite power for good.”

-Charles Chaplin (The Gold Rush)


“Why pay a dollar for a bookmark? Why not use the dollar for a bookmark?”

“There is something about killing people at close range that is excruciating. It’s bound to try a man’s soul.”

“I love my kids as individuals, not as a herd, and I do have a herd of children: I have seven kids.”

-Steven Spielberg (Jaws)

“We’re all like detectives in life. There’s something at the end of the trail that we’re all looking for.”

“The ideas dictate everything, you have to be true to that or you’re dead.”

“Absurdity is what I like most in life, and there’s humor in struggling in ignorance.”

-David Lynch (Mulholland Dr.)

“Human beings are unable to be honest with themselves about themselves. They cannot talk about themselves without embellishing.”

“Egoism is a sin the human being carries with him from birth; it is the most difficult to redeem.”

-Akira Kurosawa (Throne of Blood)

“One should make one’s own “notes” because there is no one way to do anything. If anyone tells you there is only one way, their way, get as far away from them as possible, both physically and philosophically.”

-Jim Jarmusch (Dead Man)

“If one devalues rationality, the world tends to fall apart.”

“Far be it from me to force anyone into either chess or dressage, but if you choose to do so yourself, in my opinion there is only one way: follow the rules.”

“I’m happy that I’m alive. I feel like someone coming back from Vietnam, you know; I’m sure that later on I’ll start killing people in a square somewhere, but right now, I just feel happy to be alive.”

-Lars von Trier (Dogville)

“Is someone different at age 18 or 60? I believe one stays the same.”

“It seems like everything that we see perceived in the brain before we actually use our own eyes, that everything we see is coming through computers or machines and then is being input in our brain cells. So that really worries me.”

-Hayao Miyazaki (My Neighbour Totoro)

“There’s no such thing as simple. Simple is hard.”

“Alcohol decimated the working class and so many people.”

“Food tells you everything about the way people live and who they are.”

“It seems to me that any sensible person must see that violence does not change the world and if it does, then only temporarily.”

“You make a deal. You figure out how much sin you can live with.”

“There are two kinds of power you have to fight. The first is the money, and that’s just our system. The other is the people close around you, knowing when to accept their criticism, knowing when to say no.”

-Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver)

“The truth is that there is no terror untempered by some great moral idea.”

-Jean-Luc Godard (Band of Outsiders)

“Experience is what you get while looking for something else.”

“The young watch television twenty-four hours a day, they don’t read and they rarely listen. This incessant bombardment of images has developed a hypertrophied eye condition that’s turning them into a race of mutants.”

“I think television has betrayed the meaning of democratic speech, adding visual chaos to the confusion of voices. What role does silence have in all this noise?”

“Money is everywhere but so is poetry. What we lack are the poets.”

-Federico Fellini (Nights of Cabiria)

“I think people talk too much; that’s the truth of the matter. I do. I don’t believe in words. People use too many words and usually wrongly. I am sure that in the distant future people will talk much less and in a more essential way. If people talk a lot less, they will be happier. Don’t ask me why.”

-Michelangelo Antonioni (Blow-up)

“You have to really be courageous about your instincts and your ideas. Otherwise you’ll just knuckle under, and things that might have been memorable will be lost.”

“Anything you build on a large scale or with intense passion invites chaos.”

“It takes no imagination to live within your means.”

“I was never sloppy with other people’s money. Only my own. Because I figure, well, you can be.”

-Francis Ford Coppola (Bram Stoker’s Dracula)

“It has been my observation that parents kill more dreams than anybody.”

“Everything I do is always scrutinised. But that’s all I’ll say about that.”

“I think that every minority in the United States of America knows everything about the dominant culture. From the time you can think, you are bombarded with images from TV, film, magazines, newspapers.”

“Culture is for everybody.”

-Spike Lee (Do the Right Thing)


“I am not afraid of death, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

“The talent for being happy is appreciating and liking what you have, instead of what you don’t have.”

“Tradition is the illusion of permanance.”

-Woody Allen (Annie Hall)

“Trust your own instinct. Your mistakes might as well be your own, instead of someone else’s.”

“If you’re going to tell people the truth, be funny or they’ll kill you.”

“You have to have a dream so you can get up in the morning.”

“If there’s anything I hate more than not being taken seriously, it’s being taken too seriously.”

-Billy Wilder (Ace in the Hole)

“We have too many intellectuals who are afraid to use the pistol of common sense.”

“Being a hooker does not mean being evil. The same with a pick-pocket, or even a thief. You do what you do out of necessity.”

-Samuel Fuller (Shock Corridor)

“How do I respond to criticism? Critically. I listen to all criticism critically.”

“I’ll rebel against powers and principalities, all the time. Always, I will.”

“You have to be a brat in order to carve out your parameters, and you have to be a monster to anyone who gets in your way. But sometimes it’s difficult to know when that’s necessary and when you’re just being a baby, throwing your rattle from the cage.”

-Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia)

“I never reflect or convey that which I have not experienced myself.”

“In order to be universal, you have to be rooted in your own culture.”

“I’ve often noticed that we are not able to look at what we have in front of us, unless it’s inside a frame.”

-Abbas Kiarostami (Taste of Cherry)

“The most ordinary word, when put into place, suddenly acquires brilliance. That is the brilliance with which your images must shine.”

“Make visible what, without you, might perhaps never have been seen.”
“When you do not know what you are doing and what you are doing is the best – that is inspiration.”

-Robert Bresson (Au Hasard Balthazar)

“If you take a loud pride in anything, people will rightly shoot you down.” 

“Come a crisis, we want other people.”

Danny Boyle (Trainspotting)

Antichrist (2009/dir. Lars von Trier/Denmark) – Trier’s Depression Symphony Part 1


Before beginning this review, it would probably be best to start talking about Lars von Trier for a bit.

Lars von Trier is some kind of professional provocateur. If you don’t know the name for his acclaimed filmmaking output, you know him for how well he steps on the toes of the bourgeois cinema that he himself may very well be a member of. He has made a documentary out of his harassment of one of his inspirations (though it seems to have occurred on good terms between the two of them), had an animal killed for the shooting of one of his films (an act which, while I hold his artistic ability at high esteem, I do not agree with one bit), dealt with some more standoffish critics in joking but less than humble manner and as his crowning jewel of controversy outside of cinema, he had earned the first ‘persona non grata’ status at Cannes Film Festival after making a lot of facetious but poor Nazi jokes in the Cannes 2011 Melancholia Panel, after spending a full career as essentially the festival’s favorite son. Trier is probably accustomed to being a lightning rod for public scrutiny.

On the other hand, his movies prior to Antichrist are for the most part revered in technique while dividing critics in subject matter. He was a pioneer in the Dogme ’95 movement and is stylistically distinguishable in his naturalistic avant-garde manner in shooting yet remains exhaustive in his communication of themes and methods to capture the “real world” on the camera. In addition, his actors find him irritating in his treatment of them – As opposed to the relationships we get out of many famous director/actor duos, he very rarely gets actors to return for other projects. John C. Reilly walked out of Manderlay over the afore-mentioned animal killing, Stellan Skarsgård had to lie to Paul Bettany to have him get on-set of Dogville, James Caan was ashamed to have worked on Dogville which he thought was anti-American and Björk outright called him a misogynist.

The claims of misogyny against Trier as a director interest me in consideration of the fact that in nearly all of Trier’s films, the female actress has more critical praise than any other factor of the film. I’ve seen Emily Watson, Nicole Kidman, Björk, Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg all earn universal acclaim for their performances in his film as opposed to Stellan Skarsgård, Paul Bettany, David Morse, Kiefer Sutherland or Willem Dafoe. This doesn’t necessarily refute the idea – In fact, he may get such performances through cruel methods – but the fact that the focus is on the female protagonists and more often than not, our sympathies lie in the female leads of his movie make an interesting response to his considerable negative reception from female perspective.

Indeed, I approached Antichrist with having heard that it is misogynist and damning towards women in terms of its content and that the Cannes Film Festival awarded the film an “anti-award” for this reason.


The movie’s story reminisces of the isolation and gender separation of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, though with less subtlety. A married couple (the previously mentioned Dafoe and Gainsbourg) has recently lost their infant son in a manner that made me reflect on Eric Clapton’s tragic song “Tears in Heaven”. Dafoe’s character happens to be a psychiatrist and takes it upon himself, in an ill-advised manner, to ease Gainsbourg’s character’s suffering through the aftermath of the son’s death. The experiments they go through eventually lead them to plan a stay in a cabin that She had once spent time in with her son. The resulting retreat turns into an ambush of feral instincts considered natural by She, who is the perpetrator.

The movie is regarded by Trier as his failure to create a horror movie, but I’d argue it to be one of if not the purest horror films I’ve ever seen. Antichrist‘s cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle somehow is able to cross the thin line between handheld jump cuts that make us involved in the atmosphere and precise methodical handling of mise en scene to keep the movie from seeming incredibly amateurish. The structure of the film provides an even arc in its story, even if


could easily apply to its notorious third act. The first act of the film is unnerved by the very intense performance of Gainsbourg, a larger-than-life hysteria that is controlled enough to not come off as cartoonish and instead is slowly but surely threatening. It’s amazing she doesn’t burn out on her screams in the darkness of her bed alone…


Then we approached with the second act of the film, which dedicates itself to establishing an invisible yet supernatural and sinister atmosphere while dropping in little omens of terror every so often… Gainsbourg left room in her character to become more and more unhinged, even in her initial unpredictability (an effort only matched by few actors, Jack Nicholson in The Shining).


In the second act, we begin to foresee the horrifying fate that is spelled out for this couple in their solitude. But the third act is where it all gets messy for them, without saying what happens (assuming you haven’t already seen the movie, 4 years after its release, or assuming you don’t want to be reminded of the very graphic and unsettling violence that occurs). However, until the very climax of the film’s simmering and escalating hostility, the majority of violence is performed towards Dafoe’s He by Gainsbourg’s She. The performance of He is the only complete constant in the film – disassociated, cold and exploitive of She’s woes and swings.

As a result of portraying She as a self-loathing and murderous character (she expresses contempt and speculation for her gender as responsible for all the world’s woes), the movie’s content is considered misogynistic, alongside consideration of a credit for a misogyny expert on the set of the film (Heidi Laura may either be proud or ashamed of her work on the movie, depending on her stance of the final cut). But I’d argue that, in spite of some points of views of the movie being more popular than others, He is the more evil character between the two. Save for the funeral, he immediately shrugs off the death of his son and gets to putting his suffering wife under a microscope for his scholarly needs. It may just be my own interpretation, but I felt more sympathy for She, who seems to represent more the pressures that a male-dominated society push onto women and the occasional persecution of women as responsible for their aggressors, both presently and past form (Dafoe is astonished to find the results of his attempts come to bite him in the butt).

In a major amount, She’s self-misogyny and belief in women inherently being evil reminds me heavily of Hari Rhodes’ performance as Trent in Samuel Fuller’s Shock Corridor, a black man who, in the pressure of his racist environment believes himself to belong most to the Ku Klux Klan than to his own identity as a black man.

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Indeed, this is a layer of the movie carried through the control of Trier,  largely Gainsbourg and Dafoe, but in addition, the performances are also extremely differentiated in their reaction to portray two separate sides of the same coin: the ways people go through tragedy and depression. The movie, and Trier’s following two others Melancholia (which will be my next review soon – as I look to cover Trier’s entire Depression trilogy) and the upcoming Nymphomaniac, are based on Trier’s depression period in 2007 and inspired by his feelings from these moments of severe depression – one of many symptoms Trier suffers from as a peculiar human being, as insensitive that this might sound. Much of the inhumane horror comes form a dementia that is obtained through the grief of these characters and it is always acknowledged that they have lost someone dear to them and that it drives them.

Is the movie pretentious as many claim it to be? I don’t doubt it at all. Despite its rawer look in cinematography and intensity, it has the air of a work of art that demands to be put on a pedestal before it stands the test of time – especially with a memorable opening that, with its marriage of aria and high definition black and white photography, would be so perfect… if its content was not so wrong. However, the movie may also be the most personal of Trier, forcing him to look at the separations of society from the mind of one who is not thinking straight and consider its validity to the general world. And it’s a good movie as a result, as polarizing as it is, even if I don’t intent to watch it again unless I need to and even when it acts more important than it is.

It’s not Trier has nothing to say; quite the contrary, he has something to say with this film. The problem is that so many people may not want to hear it.